Friday, July 13, 2012


I've found that things have a way of evening out over time.  When things aren't going so well, it's nice to know that life will eventually get better again.  On the other hand, when everything seems to be going my way, that also means that rough times are probably ahead.  In terms of my tennis game, 2010 was one of those times when I had to just sit back and hope that things would turn around...

Tendonitis in my left Achilles kept me from playing competitive tennis for more than a year.  After a demoralizing, pain-in-the-ankle match in a work tennis league in mid-January, I hung up the racquet and didn't pick it up again until May 2011.  But sure enough, things have a way of evening out...

When I started up again in May in a USTA mixed doubles league, my two goals I set for myself were very, very basic: (1) don't re-injure the ankle, and (2) no crotch shots--well don't be on the receiving end of any crotch shots.  It was a simple game plan, but I hadn't gone fifteen months without playing tennis since I first started practicing when I was twelve.  Shockingly, despite my horrendous lack of practice, we won the match in straight sets.  And, even more shockingly, we continued winning matches in straight sets all summer.

As my partner and I piled up the wins, our team continued winning, too.  By August, we'd finished the season at the top of the standings, qualifying for sectionals in September.  Somehow, the wave of victory continued, and my partner and I swept our matches, the team went 3-0, and we qualified for nationals in November.

I fully expected our team to get destroyed at nationals--the warm-weather teams from California and Texas have a long history of dominating the pathetic, frigid northern states.  Though my partner and I went 1-2 and our team also finished 1-2, I was pleasantly surprised at how competitive we'd been--every one of our matches was close, and we didn't even have our best lineup playing.  Things were looking very promising for the 2012 summer season...but I should have remembered that things have a way of evening out...

After nationals wrapped up in mid-November, I barely touched a racquet for the rest of the winter.  To make matters worse, the USTA finally came to its senses and bumped up the rating of our semi-pro ringer, Tony, from 5.0 to 5.5, which meant he was no longer eligible to play in the league (yes, the same Tony from that crazy hybrid singles/doubles match this spring.  Then my partner said she was going to be too busy to play regularly this summer, so she didn't sign up.  The old team was getting dismantled, but somehow, I still felt optimistic that we'd field a solid lineup when the season started.

The summer season kicked off in mid-May.  The captain found a new partner for me.  We'd never met or played together before, and to say it didn't go well just doesn't do justice to the epic craptacularity that unfolded on the court that day.  I played bad, and she played even worse.  We were matched up against a middle-aged team with mediocre tennis skills, yet the lone highlight of the match for us was the one game we put on the scoreboard in the second set before they put us out of our misery, 6-0, 6-1.  Any prospect of another undefeated season was blown off the court in about forty-five minutes, and the team's hopes were also squashed as we lost 2-1.

I figured the next match couldn't get any worse, and fortunately, I was right.  I got better, but not better enough.  The captain paired me with a different partner again (it wasn't hard to notice that the last pairing hadn't gone well).  She was a tennis instructor at one of the Lifetime clubs, but I wouldn't have guessed that from watching her play.  My performance was a lot better than the previous match, but her double faulting and consistently inconsistent play led us to defeat.  Again, the team lost...0-2.

Two losses had already all but eliminated us from sectionals, so I really didn't care what happened going into the third match.  I was paired with the instructor again, and things started well enough before they came crashing down.  We blew a 5-3 lead in the first set, then lost the second.  I was 0-3 and the team lost again, also falling to 0-3.

Tonight was my fourth match of the season, and all I could do was hope that things would start evening out. I was scheduled to play with yet another partner, so I hoped that might help end the sad winlessness that's been plaguing me for two months.  The good news is that I didn't lose tonight...but the bad news is that I didn't win tonight, either.  After driving to Lifetime, I learned that one of our opponents' three teams had to default.  I was still scheduled to play, but then one of the guys on their remaining two teams failed to show up.  Default number two meant that I'd driven to Lifetime for nothing.  On the plus side, our team picked up a rare win...

Looking back, why was I even considering the possibility of a turnaround tonight?  After all, it's Friday the 13th, a day far better known for chainsaw massacres and axe murders than tennis comebacks.  There's always next week...but I'm hoping things start to even out swing my way again.  After last year's undefeated season, I now run the serious risk of going winless in the summer of 2012.

This wildly unsuccessful streak of tennis makes me apprciate my old partner that much more.  She hardly ever double faulted, she moved up to the net on every point, and we never felt the need to congratulate each other for good shots or apologize for bad ones.  We barely talked when we was like two singles players covering halves of the same court.  We never tried anything fancy and didn't talk strategy at all, but not overthinking seemed to be the key to success.  Now, as we approach the midpoint of the summer, I have to keep reminding myself that things will eventually even out...right?

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